The announcement came during an early morning press conference held in Anchorage on April 9, triggering a series of other press conferences around Juneau by Gov. Sarah Palin and other political leaders.
The first phase of construction would cost about $600 million and the companies still need to obtain key federal permits before construction can begin. The pipeline could become the largest private sector construction project in United State's history.
"Our goal of bringing Alaska's North Slope gas to market is becoming a reality," said Jim Mulva, ConocoPhillips chairman and CEO.
The pipeline would extend 700 miles from the North Slope into Canada and through the Yukon, British Columbia and then Alberta. The project could include a pipeline from Alberta to the lower 48 states.
Gov. Sarah Palin held her own press conference hours later at the state capital and spoke with enthusiasm about the project.
"This sounds great for the state of Alaska," she said. "This is going to be progress."
Palin said she will continue discussions with ConocoPhillips and BP officials, promising transparency and "no secret, closed door negotiations."
She said the announcement by ConocoPhillips and BP to build a pipeline would "work parallel" with the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act she has supported since coming into office. AGIA set requirements for building Alaska's gas pipeline.
Palin said the decision of whether to recommend approving licenses to TransCanada, a pipeline company, to begin pipeline development will still be made available to legislators by May 19 before the special session begins. If approved, TransCanada would qualify for a $500 million state subsidy and 10-year tax freeze.
The most recent announcement about starting Denali could influence state leaders who were against paying half a billion dollars to build the pipeline. Legislative leaders held their own press conference last week following the pipeline announcement supporting the big oil producers.
TransCanada applied for the right-of-way for state lands in 2004 for the Alaska Highway Pipeline Project.
Tony Palmer, TransCanada vice president of Alaska Development, said his stance has always been that the fastest way to advance the pipeline would be for TransCanada to work with the state its three major gas producers - ConocoPhillips, BP and Exxon Mobile.
"I'm encouraged two of the three North Slope producers are willing to expeditiously advance ... this project," he said.
Charles Westmoreland is managing editor of the Capital City Weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.